Monday, November 1, 1869

Dear Diary,

I have been home for some time, now, although I still take advantage of Mr. Robot’s wrist-strap for the occasional day trip in time and space. I apologize for having been remiss in my letters to you. The gears of life spin faster than my pen can write, I think, especially now that I am a time traveler.

My primary concern relates not to time, however, but to Mary. Since her illness, she has not been quite herself. I had always supposed her change in demeanor to be the result of her brush with death. Near death experiences to tend to alter one’s perception of time, as I understand it. People might become more aggressive in pursuing their goals or protecting their loved ones, for instance. Time is precious, as Mary so well now knows. It seemed logical to me that Mary’s experience of illness might have had such an effect. Although I shall have to assist her in curbing her temper or at least in managing it in more a ladylike manner, I cannot blame her for emerging from her illness as a somewhat more impassioned individual.

Much to my surprise, Mary recently confided in me that disease is not the culprit. Do you remember her trip to visit the Queen? I am so jealous of that damnable lady, Diary. Both Mary and my uncle fawn over her as though she were some sort of God and not a mere mortal. And she is not even Caledonian! But I digress. My point is that I encouraged Mary to attend the Queen and her niece. I sent a manservant along for protection, of course, but I never imagined that his services might be necessary. Indeed, I sent a manservant along mostly as a show of wealth and station, nevermind the fact that Mary and I together have very little of either. I wanted my dear girl to make a good impression. Who knows but that she might someday catch the eye of some nice titled or landed fellow at court, especially if she is the particular friend of the Queen? It is never to early to think of securing one’s place in the world, you know. I thought that furthering an intimate acquaintance with a royal family could naught but help. I had no idea that the Queen, damn her to her soul, would be so remiss as to allow my daughter to be attacked – by two strange men – within the very gates of the palace!

But so it was. Mary whispered to me that she and the servant that I sent with her were attacked whilst taking a turn about the grounds. Mary described to me her terror and then explained that something in her seemed to shift. Something deeper, more primal and fierce replaced the terror in her heart. She “blacked out,” as it is called. When she came to, the assailants had been torn to shreds and left Mary’s smart new dress drenched in their blood. She was discovered and whisked away by two of “her kind,” two who have apparently been tracking her at a distance for quite some time. These two explained her condition – lupanism? lycanthropy? shapeshifting?, call it what you will – and disclosed to her the secret of her parentage.  She could have remained with them, I suppose. Perhaps she should have done so. How am I to help a young werewolf when I know next to nothing of their kind? Nevertheless, I feel grateful to the core that she chose to return home to me. As for that Queen, whose security is so lax as to allow such a travesty to befall my daughter… well, Queen or not, she shall never again be allowed near my dear Mary! Just imagine! How can one be expected to lead a nation when one cannot even see to the protection of a little girl?

Obviously, I expressed grave concerns when Mary told me her story. First, I was not necessarily sure whether or not to believe it. Is it not possible that Mary had come up with a fairy story to help her to cope with the emotional stress of having brought death upon two souls while she defended herself? Second, I know the burden that one carries when one takes a life. It is hard for me to even write those words. See how my hand trembles? I cannot keep a neat hand when I write on this matter. I did not wish this knowledge for Mary ever, let alone at so young an age. Worst of all, the magnitude of what she has done has not yet seemed to settle. She says that her two helpers assured her that she should not be “hard on herself,” as she merely acted as it is in her nature to do. One fights back when one is attacked, and so she drew upon long dormant skills that she did not know she had. She protected herself and of that she should not be ashamed. Logically, her helpers were right. But human beings are not creatures of pure logic. We are also creatures of feeling. I do not wish for Mary the soul crushing guilt that I have experienced, but I do wish for some guilt… some indication that the taking of life is a serious matter. Even when one is forced to do so, one must never shrug it off as a matter of course. I do not wish for so hardened an attitude to befall my daughter!

Hmm. Perhaps Danyell can help. I must speak with him.

At any rate, I began to cry for Mary. She shushed me and placed her hand upon my cheek. All at once, I felt a radiant sense of warmth and peace. It was as if sunshine had entered my bloodstream and coursed through my veins. Mary’s sweet face became merely a silhouette within a glowing halo of gold. I breathed in, smelling something sweet like flowers on a fresh spring day, and then the world returned to its normal, duller color. The warmth receded. Mary handed me a mirror. When I looked, I discovered that the scar across my eye and the bruising and swelling all were gone. She next bade me stand from my wheelchair. I did, and I found myself able to walk without injury. Even my ribs are healed!

Although I paraphrase, Mary then said something along the lines of, “You see, Mother? It is a gift, not a curse.”

We shared a tender mother/daughter moment, then. I am grateful for my new found health and vigor, but I confess that I still worry for my dear Mary. The blood on my hands has been doubled on hers. What is wrong with me that my own sweet ward should be a murderess already?

Diary, I really believe I might be cursed. By whom or what, I cannot hazard a guess, but it seems that tragedy comes to all who become close to me. Take Gordon, for example. He dared pursue my hand (unbeknownst to me at the time) and became a clockwork doll for his trouble. Other examples abound. My parents died tragically. Mr. Plutonian, the agent of Gordon’s distress, I now find has become trapped in some otherworldly dimension and is most likely dead. Gordon tells me sadly that he no longer feels “owned.” I have taken him in, poor dear, and set him up with room, board, and wage in return for his services as a maid. He will not stay long, as delightful as it is to have him here. He actually wants an owner. That, I told him, I can never be. I do not believe in the practice of owning others. Mr. Plutonian’s other properties have reverted to the state and been sold off and my debt, thankfully, no longer applies. I cannot pay a dead man. Besides, he seemed to have enough awareness of his upcoming demise to send me a letter formally breaking our arrangement and clearing me of any debts. I should feel happy to be relived of him, but I find that I am incapable of rejoicing in the death of anyone, even someone whom I considered my enemy. And now, on top of all of this, Mary is a werewolf and a murderess! I must be cursed for so much evil to befall those who dare know me.

And so, my dear diary, I leave you today with an unsettling mix of feelings echoing in my heart. I find my financial troubles come to a most unexpected and upsetting end, but my parenting seems to leave much to be desired. I cannot enjoy my new freedom when I am so weighed down with guilt. My body is now fully healed, thank God and Mary, but I doubt the morality of the methods used. If you will excuse me, I think I must go and pray.

Yours,

–Miss Palabra Puddlegum–

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